[A-Z] T is for Thumb

A brief entry for you tonight. Then two entries tomorrow. Then the [A-Z] blogging challenge will be over.

At any rate, have you ever had a hangnail? The kind that turns your finger an ugly red color when you accidentally snag it on something, or slip when you cut it off with a pair a nail clippers? I have. When I was a kid I was prone to them all the time for some reason.

Well, the past few days, I’ve had a doozy of an infected hangnail. There was pain, there was swelling, there was infection, and more. Fortunately, it’s my left thumb, so it didn’t impact me in many ways.

Well, today I finally decided the pain and the grossness were a little too much to handle, so I decided to call my doctor and see what he could do about it. The nurse asked me why I had come and I said, “This,” showing her my thumb. She said, “Oooh,” and proceeded to take my vitals and led me to an exam room without another word.

After a few minutes, the doctor came in. “So, why are you here?” he asked. I showed him. “Oh my,” he said. “Hm, I think we’re going to have to lance that.”

And so he did. And what came out was very impressive. The doctor said “Ew.” I’ve never managed to gross out a doctor before.

And now, about four hours later, the wound is still bleeding, and I’ve got a wad of gauze on it. It still hurts, but not nearly as much, and for that I’m quite grateful.

This gross entry brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] I is for Inconceivabilities

vizziniThere are number of things I can’t really conceive of, and this, of course, presents a problem in my writing. The earliest piece of advice that most writers get is “Write what you know”, which is actually pretty silly. Most writers, especially writers of speculative fiction, don’t know everything about which they’re writing. In The Fifth Hand, John Irving wrote about what it’s like to have a hand transplant, a subject that he has no experience with.

And all those worlds that science fiction and fantasy writers create for their fiction? They’re loosely based on what they already know, but most of it is just made up.

The same goes for horror fiction, of course. Stephen King has no idea what it’s like to deal with the sort of cosmic horror he created for It, but there it is anyway. And when I wrote “The Winds of Patwin County”, I had no idea what it was like to be in a marriage that was simultaneously falling apart and being rebuilt. Still have no idea what that’s like.

Some other things I have no idea about: what it’s like to grow up as a young girl in India. What it’s like to be a medical student. The nature of Hindu cosmology. How modern cosmological theory ties in with the nature of reality. What it might mean if the cosmic horizon which threatens to collapse reality actually reaches a quantum level and disrupts consciousness (I have no idea what that means; probably just nonsense). But these are all things that come up in my planned novel Padma.

Also: I don’t know what it’s like to be a young widowed mother living in a mining colony on a distant planet, whose child has been kidnapped by powerful forces intent on preventing the fulfillment of a prophecy. This is for my planned trilogy The Outer Darkness.

And, finally: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman of mixed African/Cuban descent. This is coming up in Code Monkey, though since my main character in that novel is a computer programmer sort of out of his depth in his job, the situation is not as dire.

So according to ancient writing wisdom, I shouldn’t write about these things because I have no direct knowledge of these things. I maintain, though, that I can. There are some experiences that are universal and can be extrapolated to unknown situations. I’ve never wanted to kill anyone, but I’ve been full of rage at points in my life, so can extrapolate from that.

Other experiences can be researched, of course. I know nothing of growing up in India, but that’s easily researched. What it’s like to be a female medical student? Probably a little harder to research, simply because I’d have to interview a couple at least and I’m quite, quite shy. Maybe I should just track down the primary care physician I had a few years ago. She was good, and probably can share some of her experience with me.

That’s all I’m going to post about today, I think. I have an infected hangnail which makes typing a little difficult, shoulder pain, and a headache. The kobolds are slowly fading away, thank goodness.

And you?

The A-Z Blogging Challenge? Inconceivable!

[A-Z] J is for Jalapeño

vegetables.thaichilipeppers.DSC_0022.1280Okay, I know these aren’t Jalapeño peppers.  They’re Thai peppers, which are worse. And this story is about Thai food and Thai peppers and pain.

For a few months I lived in a co-housing community in the eastern part of Davis, CA. This consisted of seven households with a common back yard and one house which had been designated the “common house”, which we all basically shared. There were gardens, chickens, hippies, rabbits, graduate students, and all kinds of things like that. It was a fun experience, one that I recommend to everyone.

One of the traditions of this co-housing community was that each month, one of the households would prepare a large community dinner for the entire community, to be served either outside or in the common house. When it came to be our turn, my friend E and I decided to make Thai food, since we were both fans. We bought all the fixings we could at the regular grocery store, except for two ingredients which we couldn’t find there: coconut ice cream (we eventually settled for regular vanilla ice cream mixed together thoroughly with coconut milk), and Thai chili peppers.

Fortunately, next to the grocery store there was an Asian food market. So I went in there and hunted around. I found some small red peppers, dried, and the label read “dried Thai peppers”, so I examined them.

Here’s where my inexperience with food in general comes in.

“Hm,” I thought. “They’re small. They’re dry. How hot can they be? They’re probably quite mild.” And since we had in the community a few people from the midwest whose palates, I knew, weren’t up to very spicy food, I picked up some of these small, dry peppers.

Then I took them home. Then I started cutting them to make the red curry.

The fact that my hands started burning right away should have been a clue that I’d made a terrible, terrible mistake, but I was young and dumb, and went on my merry way without even thinking to put on gloves or that maybe this red curry might be too hot after all. No, I’d bought the eight peppers, and by God I was going to use them all.

Then I got an itch on my cheek, just under my left eye. Without even thinking about it, I reached up to scratch it…

I yelped, of course, and ran to the bathroom to wash my face of the burning pepper juice, but, of course, all that did was spread the oil around and make my entire face burn. But, after several minutes of washing my face desperately with soap and water, it finally got to a bearable point.

Then I thought, “Hey, I’m already in the bathroom, I should probably pee while I’m here.”

Do I need to go further?

There are some lessons you just have to learn the hard way…

This super hot lesson brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge

[A-Z] Y is for Yaar!

pirates-of-THE-caribbean-logoSo, every year there is the Northern California Pirate Festival over in Vallejo. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s good fun. You know, the usual: pillaging, looting, setting fire to things, general villainy, and good music. Actually, the main thing I hear is that it’s basically a good excuse to spend a day drinking. It sounds like fun to me. Of course I like pirates just as much as the next day ever since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out and the first Talk Like a Pirate Day was celebrated. I haven’t written any pirate stories (though I’ve started one), but I’ve had them in some of the Dungeons and Dragons games that I’ve run. In that sense, pirates are fun. I’ve just never been to the festival.

But people I know who have been tell me that it reminds them a lot of the old Renaissance Pleasure Faire: lots of people, lots of food, lots of actors interacting with the customers, and lots of opportunities to spend money.

Did I ever tell you that I used to work at the Renaissance Faire? I did, back when it was in Black Point Forest near Novato in northern California. I was a street actor with St. Swithin’s, the Mongers Guild. As a Monger, I would affect the persona of a tinker who would offer to fix any broken items that the customers might have. Later on, I took on the mantel of barber surgeon, which was a lot more fun because I could interact with customers even more loudly and closely. I also participated in Pye Powder Court, a stage act where people would bring outrageous claims before a judge who would decide on a verdict and render a punishment.

Good times. I miss them. I made a number of great friends and enjoyed myself tremendously. It’s been about two decades, but I still get short of breath thinking of the march up and down Cardiac Hill where the actors camped at night, I remember the smell of the specialty vinegar stand at the base of Cardiac Hill. I remember the cups of chai we would get each morning before warming up for the day’s activities.  It was hot, dusty, smelly work, and I loved it.

Years ago, the Faire lost its lease at Black Point Forest, which ended up being sold to a developer who turned it into a golf course (one reason why I don’t play golf to this day — sheer vengeance). Now, the Faire is located in some locale too far away for me to make on a weekly basis, and I haven’t been to one in years. I’ve been to the Dickens Faire in Oakland, which is a lot of fun and is run by the same people, I understand, but it just doesn’t have the same feel.

And I doubt the Northern California Pirate Festival would have the same feel as well. Like so many other periods of my life, my memories of the Renaissance Faire are tied to specific people and places, and I’d rather keep those memories intact rather than try to recreate them.

On the other hand, the chance to hang out with over two thousand costumed pirates does sound kind of fun…

Yo ho, yo ho, an A-Z Blogging Challenge for me!

[A-Z] U is for Ukulele

I’m behind on the A-Z blogging challenge. Woefully so. Partially because I’ve been busy; sometimes I write my blog posts during my breaks at work, but lately work has been so busy that I haven’t been able to take breaks. And my evenings have been busy as well, what with my writers’ group and other commitments (that television won’t watch itself, after all). Plus, I just haven’t been sure what to write. So today I decided I was going to use the letter U, and put a call out on Twitter and Facebook for words that begin with U. One response (from my sister) was Ukulele, so that’s the word I chose.

I don’t really have that many thoughts about ukuleles. I like the way they sound when played well. They seem to be popular, especially among nerds, but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because of Molly Lewis or Garfunkel and Oates.

I thought briefly about learning how to play the ukulele. There are several musical instruments I’ve thought briefly about learning how to play. When I was young, I took piano lessons, but they wMV5BMjA3NDUyMDA1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzM3NDI0Mg@@._V1_SY317_CR10,0,214,317_AL_ere at the same time as my favorite Saturday morning television show, Land of the Lost. This, by the way, is a show that does not hold up upon watching as an adult. Even with scripts by notables such as Larry Niven, Ben Bova, David Gerrold, and so on, the show was clunky and silly. I sometimes regret the life choices I made as a seven year old child. But, on the other hand, the show had time travel, parallel dimensions, aliens, and, of course, dinosaurs, elements that certainly affected my creative proclivities as an adult.

Soon after college, in those “floating years”, I decided to learn how to play the fiddle, because I was entranced with Irish folk music (particularly with the bands Tempest and Golden Bough). I couldn’t afford to pay for lessons, but I did find someone who was willing to teach me in exchange for food. I took a few lessons on an instrument I rented, then ended up delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut and my schedule no longer allowed me to take the lessons. I returned the fiddle, and never played again.

But back to the ukulele. Of all the ukulele players I know of (and, I can count them on one hand) my favorite is, of course, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. And my favorite song of his is his medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” (the video of which I’m linking to below). Actually, I really can’t listen to this song without crying these days. That’s because I downloaded the song onto my MP3 player about six years ago, and on the day that Tangerine got sick I listened to that song over and over and over and over and over again, especially as I was driving her to the emergency vet for the last time. Even now, as I write these words, I’m starting to get a little weepy. So I’m going to wrap this up. I’ll catch up on the challenge later today.


La la la, it’s the A-Z Blogging Challenge, doo be doo.

[A-Z] S is for Short and Sweet

I got nothin’ for you tonight just because I’m tired, I have a headache, and am beset by kobolds.

So here’s a picture of Rufus, one of the kittens we’re fostering. Notice he has eyes. This picture is a couple of days old, so those eyes are wider now, and he is more exploratory. He’s gonna be a handful when he gets older.


This brief entry brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] O is for Otherworldly Stuff

nessieThere probably isn’t a huge snakelike plesiosaur hanging out under the waters of Loch Ness in Scotland (though when I visited there in 2001, that didn’t stop me from looking carefully for Nessie). And there probably isn’t a giant ape-like critter lurking in the northern woods, leaving giant footprints in its wake. The Dover Demon was probably a monkey or something like that, and I’m reasonably sure the chupacabra corpses that have been found were simply dead coyotes with mange.

But my cynicism goes even further: I’m pretty sure we’re not being visited by alien creatures in UFOs, and I’m pretty darn skeptical about ghosts.

But I’m still interested in these things. I have several thick books about ghosts, a few about cryptozoology, and many about myths and folklore and even a dictionary of superstitions. In the 90s, I was interested in conspiracy theories, though only academically: I was interested in the mindset that would lead people to believe that, say, JFK was assassinated by the Zeta Reticulans because he was about to reveal the truth of Majestic-12, for example.

I was a big believer when I was a kid. My parents bought me books like Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken, and I pretty much ate them up. I was particularly enamored with the Bermuda Triangle… That is, until I read a book called The Bermuda Triangle Solved or something like that. It laid out in a very logical fashion the history of the Bermuda Triangle, and debunked all of the paranormal theories behind it. Time warp? Debunked. Alien abductions? Debunked. The truth is, there are actually no more disappearances or vanishings in the Bermuda Triangle than there are over any other comparable area of the ocean.

So while I am skeptical about just about everything paranormal and otherworldly, I am still fascinated by the ideas. I’ve written stories about ghosts and Bigfoot and giant squid and other cryptids.

Sometimes I do wish there was a bit more to the world than what can be measured with our existing senses, but then I start thinking about the sort of thing I wrote in my last entry, and realize the world around us is pretty damn spiffy as it is.

(Of course, I’m also an Episcopalian. More about that later.)

This out-of-the-world post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.